The IAF was born into battle. It was officially formed the day after the War of Independence broke out in full force, and until the war was won, the primary concern for all involved was removing the threat to the newborn state's existence. It was not until the 1950s that the IAF's character and missions were more clearly thought out and defined. Its varied tasks included protection of the country's skies, achievement of air superiority through the annihilation of the enemy's air force, support of ground actions as well as transport and medical evacuation.
The chance to test out the new conceptions regarding the IAF's roles came sooner than anyone had expected. On October 29th 1956 the Sinai Campaign began. The campaign was made necessary, in Israel's view, by the continued terrorist infiltrations across the Egyptian border, by Egyptian leader Gamal Abd el-Nasser's closing of the Tiran Straits and Egypt's growing military might (it had introduced Soviet jets into the Middle Eastern arena, for the first time). Prosecution of the war was carried out in diplomatic and military coordination with France and Britain, which wanted to wrest control of the Suez Canal from Egypt, and accordingly supplied Israel with jet planes and other weapons.
On the first day of the fighting, 16 Dakotas dropped 295 paratroopers in the Mitle and Gidi Passes area in Sinai. These forces secured the passes, forestalling any attempt by the Egyptians to send reinforcements northwards towards the front. It was the largest-scale paratroop airdrop operation the IAF had ever carried out - and has not been surpassed to this day. The IAF's planes also assisted ground forces by patrolling the routes of advance and affording protection from aerial attack. They intercepted Egyptian planes, carried out observation patrols and evacuated casualties.
The Sinai war ended on November 7th 1956, following pressure brought to bear by the United Nations and the two superpowers, the US and the USSR. Although the IAF's role in the campaign was a purely defensive one, it made the IDF General Staff recognize the IAF's strength and importance for the first time. It was the IDF's first victory after the War of Independence, and there was much pride to go around in the air, sea and land arms of the Israeli fighting machine.